Campus Ready

If you can’t see the smile of satisfaction broadly navigating my face as I write tonight’s blog, you never will.  When it’s bike related and daughter related, I can’t help myself.

My daughter is about to head back to college to begin her sophomore journey.  This Tuesday I get to pack up her stuff, drive four hours, then unpack it.  There is both joy and sadness in that adventure — joy from watching my little girl take another baby step towards that woman she is becoming, and sadness from watching my little girl take another baby step towards that woman she is becoming.  Doggone it if that double edged sword isn’t slicing my heart in two.

Yes, I am still smiling.

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I had the privilege of spending the afternoon and a bit of this evening prepping her campus cruiser for another year.  Cables, housings, and basket were replaced.  The seven speed derailleur was cleaned and adjusted.  Somehow every creak and squeak was eliminated, proven by a quiet test ride around the block (and again and again… the fat tired rocking chair is kind of fun to ride).  Amazed at the success of the tune up as well as the appearance of the cruiser when finished, I had to take pictures.  This bike sat outside a dormitory an entire school year, including snow and rain.  When I started on the bike earlier this summer, I was not surprised that the shift and rear brake cables were seized.  I was surprised at how well the bike bounced back.  The seven speed Shimano shifter worked flawlessly once it was cleaned, greased, and the cable/housing replaced.

Yes, this bike nerd is definitely smiling.

On a sadder yet triumphant note, the first Craigslist visitor to see my old Bianchi bicycle bought her.  He tried to hide his smile, but I saw the same excitement in his eyes that I had when I first saw her.  This is someone who will appreciate my old bike.  There was a bit of disappointment as I think he thought that the wheels on the bike would be good enough to ride.  I was real honest, told him that the wheels look good but have always been trash, put the bike up on a workstand to give them a spin and let him listen to the horrid bearings in the wheel.  There is no denying the beauty of that Bianchi, though, and he couldn’t resist, even as he made one weak plea for a a better price as he dug the asking price money out of his pocket.  He paid the asking price.

He did ask me if my titanium Serotta was for sale.  Nope, nope, and again I say nope.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

20150822_075025A few hours from now, I may become Judas, betraying my beautiful savior for a modern day equivalent of thirty pieces of silver.  A customer who answered my Craigslist ad will be coming to take a look at my 1990s vintage Bianchi Campione D’Italia, a celeste Italian goddess with curves that will evoke the lust of any cyclist, a double lugged steel framed Aphrodite (believe me, I picked the correct greek goddess) that is pure pleasure to ride.  His desire was obvious in his email response to my ad, the lure of Venus a temptation too great for him to handle.

“How soon can I see her.  I can’t wait.  She looks stunning.”

I understand, you leering john.  Years ago she pulled me in the same way, her vision a siren’s song impossible to resist.  I was desperate, weak, incapable of resistance, my current love cruelly parting with the crack of her delicate frame at the moment I really needed her — the last two days of RAGBRAI.  Unable to fully absorb the loss, my first love hangs in the back corner of my garage dungeon.  So when a friend offered her to me from his stable of beauties, parading her in front of me like one his harlots, I did not even try to resist.  That day I took her home, bathed her and restoring her, exposing even more of her beauty.

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Our first ride was spectacular, dreamlike, one I will remember the rest of my life.  Never before had a bike responded to me like my celeste Bianchi, her appreciation of the power I gave to her evident in the way she moved with my every thrust.  I had never felt anything like that before.  We met a group of cyclists shortly into that first ride, turned around and joined them, eager to show off my new love.  That day we went the distance, more than 70 miles, at or near the front the entire way.  I beamed as those riders admired my new Italian girlfriend, felt no pain as we worked perfectly together.

There were a few kinks to work out.  Though appealing, her Italian components (Campagnolo Mirage) were not practical to me.  For some reason, I preferred the utility of the Japanese components from my previous girl, so I stripped them from my useless old girl and replaced the Italian on my new Bianchi.  To some that was sacrilege, taking some of the luster from my curvy beauty.  She seemed to like me more after that, though, faster and quieter.  I liked that too.

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My customer wants the original Italian components, appreciating their precise appeal as a nostalgic work of art.  They are still in excellent shape.  I didn’t use them much.

20150822_075201Bianchi was my constant companion for a few years until lithe Serotta caught my eye, her dazzlingly sleek titanium a stunning contrast to the curves of my Bianchi.  Not only is Serotta responsive, she is light.  I knew that I had to have her the moment I laid eyes on her.  From that day on, Bianchi has been second to Serotta.  Serotta has my full attention, Bianchi coming out now and then just for a short ride.

If I sell her, I will miss her a lot.  A lot of me wants to keep her simply because she is such a work of art, beautiful in a way most of the expensive technological carbon machines can not be.  Bianchi is unique.  My intent has been to keep her until the day when I can give her my undivided attention again, her ageless beauty something to be appreciated.  Unfortunately, it is time.  I did make an appeal yesterday on Facebook, hoping that a friend would buy her and allow me visiting privileges.  One responded, saying that she is too gorgeous for the utility (winter trainer) he would use her for.  He’s right.

You gave me some wonderful years, sweet Bianchi.

Molested By Metal

Cars hate me.

1986 Chevy Z24.  Blown engine at 60,000 miles.  Cool car.  Money pit.  I got so fed up with that car that I let the bank take it back, then stupidly took it back from the back, allowing that car to torture me for many more years.  The Z24 may be the reason why I learned to appreciate bicycles so much.  If cars were people, the Z24 would be my Newman.  Helllooooo, NEW-man.  That car loathed me.

2004 PT Cruiser.  Too many ailments to name.  That car was hell on wheels.. and the wheels actually fell off of that car.  Not only did that car hate me, it laughed maniacally every time I had to jump start the PT in cold weather.. which was often.  If I knew which junk yard the PT Cruiser ended up in, I would go spit on its grave.

1982 Dodge Omni.  Bad flywheel.  Took five minutes for the starter drive to find a good bite to start that car.  I never really wanted that car, bought a motorcycle soon after I bought the Omni, so it never really got a chance to know me well enough to hate me.

1992 Honda Civic.  Completely blew up on the way back from vacation out in the middle of nowhere.  My wife’s gynecologist appeared out of nowhere and rescued us by taking our stuff, kids, and Miriam home while I found a way to get the car home.  I hated that car simply because it was a Honda Civic.  It hated me back.

1987 Ford Aerostar.  Transmission.  Managed to coax the Aerostar creaking and groaning to work, called Victory Auto Wreckers, put $25 in my pocket.  To be fair, I bought the Ford for $1000 when it had 120,000 miles on it, simply because I had already pedaled my bicycle through one entire winter and wanted warm transportation for the upcoming winter.  The Ford was a cranky old man that hated everybody for no reason at all.

1972 Plymouth Duster.  Seized engine.  That car had reason to hate me.  It took a lot of abuse since it was my first car.  It also lasted the longest of any car I have had without failure — four years.  After replacing the engine, the Ruster became a hand me down for both of my brothers, giving several more years of good service.  That car was incapable of hate.

2004 Nissan Quest.  Bought new.  Once the warranty waned, that vehicle nickel and dimed me until it was traded this past March.  The engine whined and knocked constantly due to a timing chain problem.  That started at 40,000 miles.  We drove it over 160,000 miles as far as we know — the digital odometer failed at 80,000 miles.  I took careful care of that car, but it just refused to go more than a few months at a time without requiring repairs.  The Nissan resented me like a teenage boy.

Ain't it shiny?

Ain’t it shiny?

2010 VW Golf TDI turbo diesel with six speed manual, bought February 2014.  Towed to the mechanic today.  Probably a ruined clutch.  After paying my daughter’s Fall college tuition last Friday, I have about a $1000 left in the bank.  Looks like I will be saying good bye to that money.  This car should not hate me.  I have babied it.  The VW has seen every expensive maintenance service, has enjoyed fresh synthetic oil every 3000 miles, got brand new tires  last May, barely sees a speck of dirt.  Why does it resent me?

Some day I will find a car that loves me, treats me right.  I just know it.

I Banged

Gnaw Bone, Indiana.  I would like to live in a place called Gnaw Bone.  What a cool name!20150807_124448

There is another reason why Gnaw Bone is cool.  It is just east of one of my favorite places to ride — Brown County State Park.  Each Fall my friends and I trek there to ride the mountain bike trails, some of the best trails in the Midwest, a guy weekend where we do nothing but ride until we can ride no more.  We don’t get in trouble, no shenanigans.  Some might say I and my friends are boring, but the some that say that have never banged around in the woods with us.  It is the best time.. ever.

I went there this weekend.  I needed to recharge.  My daughter, visiting her college boyfriend after a long summer break, asked if I could pick her up at his house yesterday… just a mere hour or so from Brown County.  Sweet.  I would make it a three day weekend, drive the 4 hours Friday morning to the park, ride all day and the next morning, tent camp at the park campground (conveniently located at the upper trail head) pick up my daughter in the afternoon, drive home.  The plan was foolproof.

When I get a chance at an adventure like this one, I don’t need an alarm clock to wake me up to go.  The boing-boing-boing of my clock greeted me as I was getting out of the shower on Friday morning.  A picture perfect cloudless day greeted me, followed me all the way to southern Indiana, Gnaw Bone, and Brown County State Park.  The ranger at the gate thanked me as I handed him the exact change for entering the park, wished me a good ride as my VW buzzed away, focused on the entrance to the campground at the top of the park as we (my VW and I) negotiated the winding shaded park roads.  I was too early to check in, so I parked at the campground, changed into my bike clothes in the camp bath house, paused at the upper trail head to check in with my office manager.  Nothing urgent.  Good.20150807_133711

The trails are familiar to me.  I entered the Lime Kiln trail through the Ogle Lake entrance.  Lime Kiln is a fast flowing trail, perfect for warm up, skirting the side of the glacially carved ridges at the top of the park.  Quickly, almost too quickly, I entered the more challenging Walnut trail, filled with rocks and roots to pop over, switchbacks and vertigo inducing narrow trails with steep drop offs just inches to the side of the trail.  That used to make me nervous.  I hate heights.  Now it just motivates me to keep moving.

FB_IMG_1438970958365I had to stop at the entrance to the Schooner trail, just off the side of Walnut, a rock trail so demanding that I can’t ride most of the trail due to the difficulty.   My friend, Jon, loves the trail so I had to stop to take a picture to share with him, the magic of FB allowed me to share the picture with him instantly (and he thanked me for it).  As I traipsed up the Schooner entrance, a young rider stopped to say hello and to invite me to ride with him.  He looked to be in his early twenties.  Normally I would say yes, the added incentive welcome, but I knew that I had a lot of riding to go.  I needed to conserve energy.  I am 54 years old, after all, and the adventure of riding has begun to take precedence over the testosterone rush.

Besides, Hesitation Point was next up.  I wanted the chance to soak in the view.  Brown County is compared to the vistas one sees in the Smoky mountains, something very obvious in the morning from Hesitation Point and the many scenic lookouts around the park..

Ahhhhhhhhhh! 

20150807_143628My young friend also had stopped at Hesitation Point where he met up with two other friends.  They had skipped the Walnut trail and had taken the park road to Hesitation Point.  My new friend asked if I had ridden the Schooner, awe in his face as well as on the expressions of his friends, familiar with the difficulty of the Schooner trail.  I couldn’t lie.  I said that I had done two circuits, then admitted to skipping the Schooner.

Hesitation Point is just the beginning of some of the best trails.  It begins by dropping swiftly into the woods below the overlook, winding along the ridges amongst some of the tallest chicory oak trees in the area.  There is heart pounding climbing as well as heart stopping fast descents.  Along the HP trail there is a section of rocks that a few years ago I would not even try to ride.  Friday, I was determined to own that section.20150807_144314

I want my teeth back.  They about bounced out of my head.  I stayed upright, had to force myself to maintain the momentum required to propel me over the rocks and focus on the best line through.  I made it.

Experience and a new bike with dual gas shock suspension sure made it easier.

Experience should have taught me to make sure that my hydration pack was full.  I didn’t.  When I got to the entrance to the Bobcat Bowl, an expert trail that starts with rock switchbacks, I sucked the last drop out of my hydration pack.  There was still at least two hours or more left to ride.  Oops.

20150807_153437The Bobcat is a new trail at Brown County.  Last November, on a cold windy rainy day, I skipped the Bobcat and opted for taking the shortcut to the van.  My friends lamented riding the Bobcat that day.  Not only was it tough, but they attempted it at the end of a day where the weather had sapped our energy.  They were glad that I had the van warmed and ready when they got to it, even skipping the mockery usually reserved for those who wimp out.

This time I rode the Bobcat, however.  It was a good choice.  Although a booger to ride, especially since it is a roughed in trail, it is already the best trail in the park.  That is saying a lot for a trail system that is so awesome.20150807_153445

20150807_153713The Bobcat trail does not connect directly to any of the other trails, at least at the bottom of the trail it doesn’t, so to get to the other trails a steep fire road must be climbed.  I was hot, soaked with sweat, and thirsty.  At one point on my way up the fire road, I had to stop to rest.  I was toast.

I love the woods.  The peace is incredible, the beauty humbling, the quiet unrivaled.  While I caught my breath, the sound of my heart beating thumped in my ears.  That could be unnerving.  I love it.  Even when tired, it reminds me of how much of a gift my life is.

Didn’t I say that I started at the top of the park?  I did.  Not long after traversing the Bobcat and fire road, I made it to the bottom of the trails system.  There would be around 90 minutes or more riding to get back to the top, depending on how fast I would ride.  I was tired, a motivator of sorts.

I also knew where there was a soda machine.  Ice cold Dr. Pepper never tasted so good, the sugar giving me the boost I needed to make it back to the campground.  Cold bottled water waited for me in my car, packed in ice.  I checked in, found my camp site, set up the tent, downed three bottles of water (which stayed with me, didn’t leave me), took a long shower, ate a good dinner.FB_IMG_1438999986675

And enjoyed a cool evening in front of a campfire, breathless at the array of stars in the clear sky, my head rested against the back of my chair.  A boy who had served as my assistant while setting up my tent earlier in the evening and had stopped by several times to talk to me (as do most of the people who camp — one of the reasons I like to camp), visited me with his father and stopped to admire the stars also.  Their flashlights were strapped to their heads, two Cyclops trudging away as they wished me goodnight on their way back to their own tent.

It would have been nice to enjoy that time with my own family, I realized.  My daughter was with her boyfriend, my son and wife declined my invitation to come along.  They don’t like to camp.  I didn’t mind being alone.  The quiet, the solitude, the chance to do my own thing a welcome opportunity.  Some day I hope to be able to share with someone.

For now, I will share with you.

Thank you, Susie Landau, for inviting me to be one of your Wild Riders and to share one of my adventures with other Wild Riders.  There are so many I could share, but Susie’s invitation came with the request to share one adventure with pictures, which I usually do not take the time to do.  I hope this long winded tome is enjoyed!

Picture Perfect Evening

It’s a picture perfect evening, enjoyed from the solitude of my back deck.  Birds are in celebration around me, the air cool, the clear blue sky ready to fade into night as the evening takes over.  A slight breeze caresses me as I sit here at the wrought metal table, Nick the sheltie relaxing peacefully at my feet.  I can hear the sound of children splashing in the pool a few doors over, my neighbors directly behind me having a nice dinner on their brick patio.  Remains of my favorite go to dish remind me of the satisfaction I felt a few minutes ago as I ate, the benefit of eating outdoors meaning that I could toss a bite of meat Nick’s way now and then.  A glass of Forbidden Traveler apple ale is next to me on the table, an experiment as it has never been acceptable to have alcohol around the house, but the kids are not home.  They are still at camp, our house quiet all week.  My body has that pumped feeling from all the exercise I have given it this week, the responsibilities of fatherhood on hold without the presence of my offspring.

I wonder what she will say when she sees the alcohol sitting next to me.  It’s a passive aggressive test.  Will she say anything?  I’m a bit of a jerk for doing it, but I want to see.  This is my way of fighting with her, the only way she seems to find acceptable.

I want it to be over.  How many times have I said that?  Over.  Finished.  This week has shown me that even more, a week with no obstacles to talking or working on reconciliation.. there has been none of that.  We had dinner together Wednesday night.  We have slept in the same bed.  Nothing else.

Every waking hour I crave the closeness of someone, a woman who will share with me, who will be my companion.  Wouldn’t it be best to want that with the woman who has been my wife?  Yes.  I don’t.  Believe me, that thought is with me as much as wanting the closeness.  I can not make myself feel it.  I do not want her.

My FB status is “separated”.  That is the way I feel.  It is one step closer to moving on.

It’s a beautiful evening.  She is with her friend, Tanya, also a friend of mine, a friend who divorced a few years ago.  She does not want me associating with my friend, Jim, also divorced.  I wonder why.  OK.  I know why.

Time for another apple ale.  There won’t be any left for her to find when she comes home.  It will taste good with blueberry pie….

4 and 29

Dry weather.  Finally.  Dry weather means that I don’t stay dry.. I sweat.

I have been on the mountain bike four days in a row.  Four.  Three of those days were on my “old” 26, which felt like riding a slug after being spoiled by my dual suspension 29.  Oddly enough, by last night I was beginning to feel real good on the 26 despite spending way too much time holding the pedals up due to clearance.  The 29 has me spoiled.  When the shop called this afternoon, right after my boss and I were getting back on the interstate following lunch with a client, to tell me that my bike was ready, I was ecstatic.  My boss encouraged me to stop on the way back to the office to pick the bike up.  I think he liked the excuse to check out the bike store that I frequent.  Pedal and Spoke is my Cheers.. everybody knows my name.

Don’t think I have shirked my duties (that sounds dirty) with all this bike riding.  Not eye.  I mowed the lawn before zooming out to the mountain bike trails.

it felt so so so so so so freaking good to ride the 29 again tonight.  I rolled out onto the trail fast, my legs and body already warm from mowing the lawn as well as riding for consecutive days.  Even so, routine took me on my warm up route, dispatched quickly as I was hitting on all cylinders from the excitement of being back on my favorite ride.  As I finished my warm up, I bumped (not literally) into my friend, Dan, who was heading out towards the trails at the back of the park.  He asked if I wanted to join him, something I agreed to immediately.  Dan has an upgraded version of my bike, is close to me in ability, and it’s always good to ride with someone else.  It keeps me honest and motivated.  Usually I ride faster from necessity.  The only negative is that Dan takes a lot more breaks than I do.  I usually don’t stop for a break until I have covered most of the trails in the small park (8 miles of trails).  Dan stops frequently.  That was OK.  It was a good night for an easy ride.  Besides, it was 91 degrees and very humid.. typical Illinois summer weather.

I suppose I should feel fried.  Oddly, I’m not.  In a few minutes, I will sleep the slumber of the pleasantly relaxed, a rest aided by having a quiet house.

Oh, and the report I get from Alyssa is that Nate is having a very good time.  :)

Risky Business

It took me an extra few minutes to start writing tonight.  James Brown told me to get up offa that thing, shake it you’ll feel better.  When the godfather tells me to do something, I just have to.

My head is still bobbing.. as well as my thing.

There were no kids or anyone else here to witness me getting up offa that thing, just Nick the sheltie and Chester the happy orange cat.  Neither felt obligated to join me in my reverie.  Both children are out of the house this week, one a counselor at a camp in Lake Geneva (Wisconsin) and the other a camper at that same camp.  It’s teen camp this week.

James is now telling me to get on up and stay on the scene like a sex machine.

That probably ain’t happenin’ this week.  Empty house should mean that the parents should whoop it up, run the house naked and take advantage of that alone time.  Wouldn’t you think that a woman whose husband told her nearly eight weeks ago that he wants a divorce, that woman asking for more time and try to work things out,… would be doing everything she can to woo him and convince him to stay?  Maybe she would be dancing like a sex machine in front of him right now?

Nope.  Five minutes after we got home she headed over to her sister’s house.  With no one to keep me home, I loaded up the mountain bike and hit the trails for an hour.

I came up and scrubbed the bathtub in my birthday suit, Chicago’s “Mississippi Delta City Blues” blaring on the Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom, followed by my favorite most ever ever song, Salvador’s “Lord I Come Before You” next.  I will send a candy bar to anyone who honestly can say they know that song… a Baby Ruth even.  Nothing better than some good horn bands rocking the shower.

You all think I am weird, don’t you?

I admit it.

I’m not.

This is Alyssa’s last week as a camp counselor for the summer.  Teen camp.  High school age kids.  It will probably be her toughest week.  It doesn’t help that her 16 year old brother is attending, a brother who really doesn’t want to be there.  She wants him there, did everything she could to coax him into going to camp this week.  Yesterday morning, I drove to the camp and picked her up so she get a break before her last week of camp.  Alyssa wanted to sleep in her own bed last night, in air conditioning.

Air conditioning is a treat to a summer camp counselor.  So is a comfortable bed with a fluffy mattress and soft pillows.. in a quiet bedroom.  I laughed this afternoon as I waited next to the main entrance at the Lake Geneva Target, while Nate and Miriam shopped.  Two young guys walked in from the parking lot and exclaimed “Ohhhhhh, that feels soooooo goooooood!”.  I remember those days, when I was a camp counselor, how even a few minutes of cold air conditioning was an exquisite treat.

Alyssa wanted to come home to see her cousin Carly, who works with a rescue mission in Nepal called Tiny Hands.  Carly is on a brief furlough, visiting Chicago and working with volunteers in the Chicago area to prepare them to come over to Nepal.  Alyssa also wanted to come home to convince her brother to get up offa his thing, his Minecraft playing thing, and have some fun.

It worked.  Sort of.  He said no, but Alyssa packed for him last night, helped us drag him out of bed and into the car for the drive to camp.  Mir fought with him last night about it.  She had registered him already, without letting me know about it..for some reason.. probably because I would have questioned it.  Nate has a history of bailing on things like camp or trips, his most recent incident this past June when I had to drive five hours one night to rescue him from a high school golf team trip.  He supposedly was sick, but he begged me to stop to eat on the way home, so I knew better.  He doesn’t do well when he feels like he doesn’t fit in.  A few months ago, we had to go find him when he walked away from a church youth group overnight.

So I had my concerns.  I wanted him to go, but I also did not feel comfortable forcing him to go.

We spent two hours wrestling with him when we got to camp.  He insisted he didn’t want to go.  I was tempted to pull his gear out of the car’s trunk, throw a protesting Mir inside the trunk, and leave him behind at camp in a cloud of dust.  That wouldn’t work.  A part of me really wanted him to go to camp, a part of my life that I still treasure.  I went to camp every summer, sometimes twice in a summer, starting when I was 10 years old.  I was a counselor in college as well as a camp dean/administrator during my years as a youth minister.  Alyssa loves camp just like I do.  But Nate is different.  There is a lot of fear in him and also, well, ummm, it’s church camp.  He really isn’t into church or church youth groups.

Eventually I just left Mir and Nate to work things out.  Sometimes that is the best thing that I can do.  After a while, they both decided that we would leave.  So we left.  Drove away.

“You sure you don’t want me to turn around and go back? You might regret it later if you don’t go.”  I offered a few miles down the road.  On cue, Alyssa texted Mir to remind her that we had not given her the shampoo and comb that we had bought for her at Target.  We HAD to turn around.

When we got back to the camp, I walked the supplies to Alyssa.

Nate and Miriam were not in the car.  I walked down to the registration hall.  They were finishing up registration.

I am crossing my fingers and praying.

Just wait until he discovers that he forgot to pack his phone charger….

What’s That You Say, Young Man?

Sunday morning’s light pried my eyes open with a bit of reluctance, urging me to get out of bed and smell the bacon.  My body gave that little bit of hesitance to getting up, a bit like a car engine at first crank on a frigid winter morning, bones and muscles a little sore from the punishment I imposed on myself the evening before.  I rolled out of bed any way, the soreness working itself out as I took the short walk inside the cabin to the shower.  What fog existed in my head disappeared as the hot water soaked my head and soothed my bones.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

Thank goodness for hot water and Irish Spring.  I emerged from the shower feeling as good as new, the only other requirement to prepare me for the rest of the day the necessary caffeine rush.

Saturday afternoon/evening was a literal thrill ride.  My son, Nate, and I rented jet skis, running them full throttle for close to two hours on Lake Michigan, chased off of the lake by a fast moving thunderstorm.  We flew over the waves, blurs hidden amidst tall sprays of water.  The ride was punishing, the wake beating on my legs as the boat I was driving hit the water at full speed.  At one point I jumped a wave at full speed but sideways, the force bucking me off of the jet ski to drive me deep into the water.

Thank good for hot water, Irish Spring, and life vests.  That was the strangest feeling looking up through deep water.  All my body parts were intact, although I did not think to check certain vital parts (they are still there).

Nate’s heavy breathing from his cabin bunk told me he was still in a deep sleep as I pulled my cargo shorts and tshirt on, slipped my flip flops under my feet, then took a step outside the cabin door to hear the sweet chirps of greeting from the woods around the cabin.  Except for a pleasant soreness in my thighs, something I am accustomed to from riding bicycles, I felt very good.  I walked across the campground to my parents’ trailer, where my brothers and their families would gather for breakfast and coffee.

I had finished my second cup of coffee when the trailer door opened slowly and a groaning teenager entered.

“Dad, I can barely walk.  My thighs are so sore.”

You would think that I could not pass up the opportunity to remind my son that his 54 year old father felt real good.  My 72 year old mother jumped right on this one.

“What’s that you say, young man?  I haven’t heard a single complaint from your old dad.  Must be all that bicycling that he does.”

I just sat sipping my coffee with a big smirk on my face.

Weekend With The Henry Clan

Tyler 2015

There are few miracles of science that are more precious to me than the little boy in that picture.  That little boy is Tyler, the son of my youngest brother Paul and his wife Melissa (seated behind Tyler).  “T” is an invitro baby.  Every time I see him I catch a lot of sunshine from my five year old nephew, the innocence and enthusiasm so uplifting.  I look at him and see his father, eight years younger, and I remember enough about Paul when he was Tyler’s age to appreciate the boy even more.

This weekend was the annual get together for my family.  Mom organizes a trip every year, usually within a few hours of us all — the Wisconsin Dells, Gatlinburg and the Smokies, the Elroy/Sparta trail around Tomah (Wisconsin) — a way to celebrate the June birthdays of all three of her boys.  I am the oldest, with Mark a year behind me, and Paul eight years younger.  This year we returned to South Haven, Michigan along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan.  Two years ago we went there and enjoyed the beaches there, as well as picking blueberries and riding bikes.  The last time we went, Mom had to leave early as she was sick, so we were glad to be able to go again.  Mom reserved three cabins at the KOA in Covert for us, close to where she and Dad parked their camping trailer.  We all meet at the trailer to eat our meals, sit around the campfire to catch up.

My niece, Anna, another miracle of sorts as she is the adopted daughter of my brother and his wife, Mel (Imelda — she is from the Philippines), latches on to me as soon as I arrive.  She is 7 years old and has a bit of a crush on her uncle Steve, something that can get a little embarrassing at times as she is always trying to hold my hand, doing little things to get my attention.   Anna is also from the Philippines, adopted from an orphanage there.  She and Tyler tooks turns last night roasting marshmallows over the fire and feeding them to their uncle Steve.  I gave them each little lessons on marshmallow roasting technique, so they were constantly shoving the roasting stick in my face with a gooey marshmallow for my inspection.  To their credit, they learned very well.

Nate and I played catch with a baseball last night, something that both Anna and Tyler loved to watch.  Eventually they joined in, taking turns throwing the ball to Nate and I.  I was very proud of my son as he showed Tyler how to throw a baseball.  Nate has always had a quite a bit of a coach in him, even when he was a player, and he teaches very well.  Tyler was able to throw the ball a lot better after Nate showed him a few things.  Watching the faces of his parents showed me a lot.  They really appreciated watching Nate teach their son.

Nate and I had a good weekend together.  Miriam also went along, something that a few weeks ago she said she wasn’t going to do considering the status of our relationship.  But she decided that she should go, did very well with my family.  Nate and I fished together Friday night and yesterday, while Miriam watched.  We decided to splurge a little and rented jet skis for Nate and I yesterday afternoon.  The guys who rented them made an exception for Nate, noting that he really was supposed to be 18 to rent a jet ski but since he is a big kid (around 6’2″ tall now), no one would question us.

The skies clouded up over Lake Michigan as Nate and I tooled slowly up the Black River in South Haven towards the lake.  We had the machines for two hours, but from the looks of the clouds we were going to be lucky to get an hour in.  Once we cleared the pier and got on the lake, we cautiously opened the throttles up on our jet skis, bouncing over the wakes of the boats as they came in off of the lake.  It didn’t take long before we were whooping it up as we caught air over the waves, learning to cut sharp turns at full speed.  I love mountain biking, but I think I found a new favorite thing to do.  We had an absolute blast!  Of course, I was the one who managed to get thrown from my jet ski, flying sideways as I jumped a wave.  Nate laughed as he pulled up to make sure I was OK.  As I swam back to my jet ski and climbed back on, Nate pointed out the lightning from the ominous clouds approaching quickly from the west.  We hightailed it back to the pier area, took a few more turns out on the lake, then headed back up the channel to turn the jet skis back in to the rental.  As we drove our boats back to the marina, I noticed people along the shore looking behind us and taking pictures with their cell phones.  I looked behind to see some very nasty looking clouds behind us.  As we drove our jet skis onto the trailer, the skies opened up into a downpour.  We made it back just in time.

Nate told me that the jet skis is one of the best things that we have done together.  That was great to hear.

We all gathered for breakfast this morning at Mom and Dad’s trailer.  That’s me next to Tyler, holding the coffee and plate in the picture.  As we always do for our family get togethers, one of us gives a little devotion and Bible reading during our Sunday morning breakfast, then we have prayer together.  Mom gave the prayer this morning, her voice quavering with emotion as she prayed.  I think she is afraid that she may not have much more time left in this world, so she gets emotional when she is around us, plus she was worried since Mir and I did not sit or stand next to each other the whole weekend.  Mom is 72 years old, not old by most standards, but she is older than both of her parents were when they died plus she has outlived her younger sister and brother.

Nate drove the car a little on the way home, the first time I have let him drive in major traffic at highway speeds.  He did fairly well.  We stopped for lunch, then he let me take over, both he and Miriam took naps as I drove us home.

Time for bed for me.  Tomorrow the large old ash tree in our front yard comes down, something I do not want to see.  It was shorter than our house when we moved in, now it towers over the house.  When the kids were young, I hung a swing from one of its limbs, and that swing has been very popular for the children who pass by in front of our house.  I also watched several of Alyssa’s boyfriends push her on that swing.

Good night!